Every Time I See Your Picture I Cry
. Yeah, that title makes me a little nauseated, too. And I would be lying if I said that wasn't one of the many feelings that came to the surface in the midst of Daniel Barrow
show last night; funny, though, how nausea can feel so satisfying when paired with a helluva lot of other emotions.
Barrow's tour de force
is notable in the way it combines many things: live narration, video, music, drawings and an overhead projector. Yes, a real, live overhead projector, unseen since your eighth grade biology class, on which Barrow layers and manipulates multiple transparencies. It is not the mere novelty of the tool that makes Barrow's work worth it, but rather his complete and utter mastery of a machine more commonly considered a bygone clunker than a medium for high art.
During a Q&A after the performance, he described a nun-cum-professor at his art school who had been giving the same, refined lectures for nigh on 50 years, conducted via slide and overhead projectors. Barrow was inspired to riff on her method as a parody, but soon found that the medium sincerely appealed to the "control freak" and isolationist in him ("I don't like to work with crews, or other people, really," he admitted).
The projector is the vehicle for Barrow's harrowing, dreamscape-like tale of an erstwhile garbage man, art school dropout and social outcast. He spends his nights picking through residents' detritus and peeking through their windows; he's inspired, in his own earnest and perverse way, to create a special kind of phone book based on these findings. Each citizen will get a page of info and illustration; it's an "art project for everyone," our garbage man intones.
For reasons that remain hazy but may include childhood trauma and psychic revenge, it is slowly revealed that a serial killer stalks our stalker, the malicious and psychotic foil to his harmless voyeurism. But by the time this oddball is thrown into the mix, the audience is too thoroughly entrenched
in Barrow's elegant, elegiac projector world to put up any sort of fight. Every Time I See Your Picture
has a plot, but it is cushioned and obscured by the very narration around it, which is at once a diary entry, a cautionary tale and a philosophical tangent. A lot of it makes very little sense; some, in that illogical way personal confessions have, makes a frightening amount.
Above all, though, this performance is ultimately enjoyed in the craft of the man and his machine. If the animation potential of an overhead projector has never entered your brain, see this and prepare for revelation. Barrow is fluid and holds perfect time; his narration matches the sweeping movements of transparencies placed and replaced, and the original score by Amy Linton buoys you up and into the garbage man's musty-sherbet-toned world.
I sat three rows behind Barrow (whose projection outpost is ensconced in the middle of the auditorium), and can heartily recommend this position. You watch the master make the product. It is a bizarre live experience, unlike any I've seen, unlikely to be forgotten any time soon.
Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Ave. 8:30 pm Tuesday, 6:30 pm Wednesday, Sept. 8-9. $10-$15.